Good news from Pakistan has been hard to come by over the past few years, but perhaps that is finally beginning to change. Although it will not end the decades-long nuclear standoff between the two countries, Pakistan’s decision to grant Most Favored Nation status to India is a small, symbolic but possibly significant step away from one of the world’s oldest and most toxic conflicts. The Washington Post reports:
The decision by the Pakistani military to drop its long-standing objection to closer trade ties with India was interpreted partly as a reflection of the parlous state of Pakistan’s economy and as a measure to counter Islamabad’s increasing diplomatic isolation. […]But there is little doubt that the atmospherics between the South Asian neighbors have improved since their foreign ministers promised a new era of more stable relations at a meeting in New Delhi in July. […]Islamabad has looked increasingly isolated in recent months, its relations deteriorating with the United States and souring with its western neighbor Afghanistan. In that context, acrimonious relations with India have seemed less attractive.“Pakistan’s strained ties with the United States has pushed it to look for more foreign policy options, to go for increasing ties with friendly states in the neighborhood like China, and also to improve the relations with nuclear neighbor India,” said Hasan-Askari Rizvi, a Pakistani political and defense analyst.
Perhaps something good will come out of the US-Pakistan rift after all. The long unraveling of America and Pakistan’s strategic alliance has sent Pakistan’s always-chaotic foreign policy to a new low point — Pakistan is now weaker than all of its foes and without friends in its neighborhood. Years of self-destructive and unpredictable policies have left Pakistan in a tenuous position, and the deterioration of the relationship with its most powerful ally has left it exposed.Could all this bad news be causing second thoughts in the Pakistani security establishment? Pakistan has a penchant for disappointing expectations, but even a faint hope for improvement is better than nothing. And something else to ponder: the positive turn suggests that tough love from the US may help Pakistan more than lavish aid.